FAYETTEVILLE Mike Anderson has been on the job as Arkansas’ basketball coach for five weeks.
“It seems like I was just hired yesterday,” Anderson said. “That’s how fast it’s been going.”
Anderson has stayed in high gear recruiting for the 2012 class, re-recruiting the five high school players who signed with Arkansas in November, evaluating the players he inherited, making numerous radio show appearances, speaking at Razorback Club meetings and moving his family from Columbia, Mo., back to Fayetteville, where he lived for 17 years as a Razorbacks assistant from 1985-2002.
“It’s been pretty hectic for myself,” Anderson said Thursday, when he met with the media for the first time since his introductory news conference on March 26. “Having my staff here helps a lot.”
Anderson said seeing how the current Razorbacks handle off-season workouts has been among the most important aspects of his first few weeks as their coach.
Under NCAA rules, teams are allowed to practice for two hours per week after the season ends and while school is still in session for the spring semester before final exams. The Razorbacks held the last of those workouts on Thursday.
“I’m proud to say those guys have been working extremely hard,” Anderson said. “They’ve been attentive. They’ve done the right things on and off the floor.
“As a coach coming in and transitioning, that’s not always easy. But anything I’ve asked of these guys, they’ve done a good job up to this point.”
Anderson said all nine of the scholarship underclassmen from the 2010-2011 season remain on the team and that the five signees are still committed to the Razorbacks.
“Right now they’re all on board,” Anderson said. “So far, so good.”
If all the current Razorbacks return next season and all the signees are eligible, Arkansas will be one over the NCAA maximum of 13 scholarships.
“It seems like for some reason it always works out,” Anderson said. “I think it will work out at the end.”
Forward Marshawn Powell, a junior next season, has been going through weightlifting workouts but hasn’t been on the court for practices as his left foot continues to heal from an injury.
“Marshawn’s doing well,” Anderson said. “He’s been in a boot to keep the pressure off that foot .... but he’s working hard.”
Guard Rotnei Clarke, a senior next season, asked for a scholarship release before Anderson was hired from Missouri to replace John Pelphrey as coach. Anderson said Clarke, who averaged a team-high 15.2 points last season, is now committed to completing his career at Arkansas after they had some meetings to talk about the program.
“When you have a coaching change, there’s a lot of questions that go in your mind,” Anderson said, speaking from the player’s perspective. “Sometimes it can be like your whole world is uprooted.
“Who is this guy coming in here? How much do I know about this guy? How do I fit in? It’s [Clarke’s] senior year and he wants to have a special year. I assured him that he obviously is important in what we’re doing. ... No. 1, he can put the ball in the hole, but he can do some other things. He has a great basketball IQ.”
Anderson said the workouts were broken down into four 30-minute segments per week, with the goal of keeping the players in a consistent routine.
“I don’t think they thought we could get a whole lot done in 30 minutes, but I think they’ve been pretty impressed thus far,” Anderson said. “You talk about 10 minutes into the workout, and they’re kind of gassed, so that’s something we’ve got to continue to build on.
“It’s just creating that atmosphere, creating that mindset of how hard they’ve got to work, and that’s competing against one another each and every day.”
Arkansas assistant coach T.J. Cleveland, who worked for Anderson at Alabama-Birmingham and Missouri and played for the Razorbacks during Anderson’s tenure as Nolan Richardson’s assistant, smiled Thursday when asked how the players have reacted to the workouts’ conditioning demands.
“It’s been rough, like running into a brick wall,” Cleveland said. “The guys were exhausted, but that’s to be expected, because they’ve never worked like this before.
“As time has gone on, they’ve gotten a lot better, and they’re embracing it. That’s the good thing. They want to get better, they want to be pushed, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Cleveland said the players are learning that conditioning is the most important part of playing the Anderson’s style, which stresses defensive pressure.
“They know what to expect,” Cleveland said. “ We’ve just given them a taste of what’s to come.”
Sports, Pages 21 on 04/29/2011
Print Headline: 30-minute sessions let Anderson, Hogs unite